Agony for Mark Cavendish as he misses second world road title by whisker

Gold medalist Peter Sagan of Slovakia, center, celebrates on the podium with second place Mark Cavendish of Great Britain, left and third place Tom Boonen of Belgium, after the men's Elite Road Race at the 2016 Road World Championships in Doha. Picture: AP/Alexandra Panagiotidou)
Gold medalist Peter Sagan of Slovakia, center, celebrates on the podium with second place Mark Cavendish of Great Britain, left and third place Tom Boonen of Belgium, after the men's Elite Road Race at the 2016 Road World Championships in Doha. Picture: AP/Alexandra Panagiotidou)
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Mark Cavendish narrowly failed to win his second Road World Championship title in Doha after being beaten on the line by defending champion Peter Sagan.

In a bunched sprint finish to the line Cavendish was pipped by the length of the Slovakian’s bike after a gruelling 257.5-kilometre ride in searing heat and tricky crosswinds.

Lizzie Armitstead.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

Lizzie Armitstead. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Windy conditions in the desert saw the race split with about 80km remaining with Cavendish, and fellow Briton Adam Blythe – from Sheffield – among those in the lead group.

With about 25 riders in the pack, Holland’s Tom Leezer made a break for the front with just over two kilometres remaining but he was eventually reeled in on the final incline to the finish but Cavendish – winner of the event in 2011 – could not quite edge ahead of Sagan before the line with Belgium’s Tom Boonen finishing third.

On Saturday, Otley’s Lizzie Deignan finished fourth in defence of her women’s road race title as Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark won gold.

Dideriksen won a bunch sprint at the end of the 134-kilometres road race ahead of Holland’s Kirsten Wild. Lotta Lepisto of Finland was third and Deignan finished one place behind.

Deignan, formerly Armitstead, won the world title in Richmond, Virginia in September 2015, fulfilling a life-long ambition.

The 27-year-old, also a London 2012 silver medallist, had the honour of wearing the world champion’s rainbow jersey for the year and had played down her chances in the pan-flat Doha route, having focused her season on the hilly Olympic Games road race in Rio.

“In the finish straight I was just legless,” she said after Saturday’s race. “I didn’t have energy to kick.

“If I had prepared for this I may have done some sprint training and put myself in a position to win. But (Dideriksen is) a deserved champion.”

Australian track cyclist Anna Meares has retired at the age of 33 after a career that brought her six Olympic medals, including two golds.

“The best thing is having the chance to ride for Australia, to represent my country,” said Meares.